Category: Health

Pregnancy Nutrition 2nd Edition

I’ve shared how I am carefully managing my pregnancy weight gain which has lead many to ask “what do you eat?”  So here it is – I have very specific foods I try to eat every day to meet all my nutritional needs.

Every day I have a smoothie.  I usually use this smoothie to take all my supplements and frequently drink half of it at one time and the other half later.  This is a convenient  and consistent way to make sure I’m packing a lot of nutrition into one simple meal and taking my vitamins regularly :).

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup of frozen berries
  • 3 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 packed cup of kale (approximately 1.5oz)
  • 1 scoop of “Garden of Life Perfect Food” powder

The macronutrients this provides me with are….

  • 672 calories
  • 22g protein
  • 28g fat
  • 92g carbohydrates and 21g of fiber

But the micronutrients is where this smoothie shines 🙂

A screen shot from Cronometer of all the nutrition in this smoothie :)
A screen shot from Cronometer of all the nutrition in this smoothie 🙂

The rest of the day isn’t quite as set, but I try to include all of the following things in my daily meals.

  • 1 medium potato (primarily for potassium, but notably contains 4g of protein and 2g of iron, along with varying amounts of minerals & b-vitamins)
  • 1 cup of legumes (with a focus on white beans, lentils, and chickpeas).  When prepared properly they are an excellent source of various minerals, protein, and fiber along with a heaping helping of b-vitamins (particularly folate!)
  • 3oz of salad greens – green leafy veggies are a great source of minerals, including calcium & iron, along with vitamin A, vitamin K1, and folate.  I avoid eating too much spinach due to the very high oxalate content.
  • 2 eggs – an obvious source of protein, b vitamins (b-12 in particular) and vitamin E in addition to vitamin K2 if the eggs come from pasture raised chickens.
  • 3oz of meat – with a focus on naturally raised sources.  I lean more towards eating pork products as they are high in selenium, zinc, and various b-vitamins.
  • 1 oz of almonds (preferably soaked and dried to help improve bioavailability of nutrients)
  • 1 oz (or two squares) of 80% or darker chocolate.  A delicious way to get 2g of protein, 2mg of iron, and various amounts of other minerals.

Including my morning smoothie, below you can see the nutritional breakdown of eating all of those things in a day…

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 12.35.27 PM
A couple of notes: All the daily value percentages are adjusted for pregnancy needs ;-).  Also, most of the vitamin A I get in a day is the alpha and beta carotene kind and perfectly safe in large amounts.  This also does not include other “incidental” foods such as coconut milk in my coffee, other foods that are contained in lunch and dinner, as well as any oil used for cooking.  So all said and done, my calorie count ends up closer to 2200-2300 calories a day.

As you can see there are a few “gaps” and here is how I address them.

B-Vitamins: I take a half dose of Garden of Life’s Raw B-Complex.

Vitamin D – I take 2 cod liver oil capsules (which contain a total of 500 IUs vitamin D & 5000 IUs preformed vitamin A).  I also take additional vitamin D drops during the winter as I’m not getting nearly as much sun now.

Calcium – my Nutritive herbal tea contains a large amount of calcium along with other minerals, but since it’s not as measurable I take 2 capsules of calcium / magnesium  daily just to be sure. With my pregnancies so close together I need to be very mindful of my mineral intake – particularly with calcium and magnesium.

Iron – that one is close enough 😉 that I’m sure my other food plus my nutritive tea intake covers it.  I also get my blood tested for iron levels to be sure I’m doing well there.

Potassium & Zinc – that one is close enough as well.  See my above comments about iron.

Selenium – I take a capsule of selenium and sprinkle about 1/4 of it into my smoothie on most days.

Ok so that covers the basics, but how about “HOW TO FIT IN ALL THAT FOOD??” lol.  Some days it feels like so. much. food, but it’s worth it!  First of all I spread it out throughout the day so I’m more or less eating a little bit every 2-3 hours.  To get my salad in, if we’re not having salad for dinner I just throw whatever we’re having for lunch or dinner on top of greens.

Lunch is either leftovers or a big pot of soup with potatoes, legumes, onions, carrots, celery, chopped kale, and meat of some kind (we buy meat in bulk from Polyface Farm).

Dinner – we follow a really regular meal schedule which makes life a lot easier (budget and planning wise).  But this post is long enough so I’ll share that next time. 🙂

DISCLAIMER – This post was written with all my minions running around me asking to be fed and watch movies and to be fed again.  If it’s sounds discombobulated or has excessive typos, you may blame them.  No time to edit or add lovely photos today! 🙂

Managing Pregnancy Weight Gain

My nutritional goals are constantly evolving.  I’m trying to carefully balance not gaining too much weight, but nourishing my body and a growing baby.  This becomes even more complicated as the nutritional status of our food is definitely not what it use to be, but we are fortunate enough to have nutritional supplements when access to highly nourishing food isn’t as readily available.

Not my feet ;-)
Not my feet 😉

I started this pregnancy about 30lbs over what I consider a good weight *for me* and since there is no time like the present to pursue better health I made a plan to carefully *not* gain weight this pregnancy, but here is the rub – I hate counting calories, so I don’t.  But guess what?  I still have a fairly good idea of how many calories I am eating because for a short amount of time I *did* count my calories.  I used tools like myfitnesspal, or my current favorite Cronometer, to see just how many calories I was consuming on a “normal” day.  Then for this pregnancy I played around with different meal and food combinations for a given day and discovered what foods and nutrients I could squeeze in my day without going over my calorie budget.  This way I have a fairly good idea of how much I can eat and not gain weight, yet still hit all my nutrient goals for a day.

To know how many calories you need to eat to simply maintain your weight, use any of the helpful online tools out there.  I like this one at  According to this (not counting pregnancy needs and taking into account my physical activity) I need 2250 calories to simply maintain my current weight.  If you add 300 calories on top of that for pregnancy that brings my grand total up to 2550 a day to only gain pregnancy weight.  Since my goal is to very carefully “lose” weight while safely nourish my growing baby (more or less trying to keep the number on the scale from moving) I need to have a calorie deficit of approximately 300 calories day.  I did a lot of complicated math to come up with that number 😀 which I will happily explain if you’d like, but until then….

So every day I shoot for about 2200-2300 calories a day and when I do that my weight stays consistent from day to day.  When I eat more than that of course the scale reflects that.  I weight myself first thing in the morning every few days to help keep tabs on my calorie intake.  If the scale starts to creep up, I try to eat a little less in the high calorie food department (read: curbing my peanut butter addiction).  I also have a list of foods I try to eat each day to help meet nutritional goals I have, but that will have to be covered more in depth in another post.  I need each and every calorie I have available to me to get in all the nutrients I need, so if I want to splurge it will be reflected on the scale, and I’m ok with that 🙂 It does makes splurging less tempting though.

At 30 weeks pregnant I’ve gained 9lbs so far (5 of which happened the week of Christmas & New Years, yikes!).  I’m praying my motivation stays strong enough to keep up with eating well so I can finish out this pregnancy in a healthy way.  So how about you?  Do you have a story of minimal pregnancy weight gain?  I’d love to hear it!


Postpartum Hemorrhage Prevention

This is my story… I’ve given birth to 9 children.  Children 7 & 8 were both born via emergency c-section due to fetal distress.  I hemorrhaged during my 2nd cesarean and was very anemic after (very very pale, really short of breath, easily fatigued, etc).  Postpartum hemorrhage, whatever the cause, is scary business!  When we learned our 9th child was on the way, I had a very strong desire to do all that was *within my control* to avoid having a cesarean again.  The fact that my in hospital midwives and doctors had policies against working with women who want to VBAC after having 2 c-sections complicated things.  I was left with the choice of a home birth with an experienced midwife (if I could find one to take me!) or a scheduled repeat cesarean.  We chose home birth and were taken on by our wonderful midwife Marilee.  There were several things I felt needed to line up for a home birth to be a safe option for us and one was preventative measures to lower my risks for postpartum hemorrhage.  I read a lot, cross referenced anecdotal stories and case studies from other women and midwives, and came up with a plan.

Checklist Image

First: My nutrition needed to be very good so my blood clotting factors were in a healthy rang and my placenta would be as healthy as possible.

Second: My uterus needed to be functioning properly so it could contract properly during AND after labor.

Third: The delivery itself needed to go smoothly as possible to lower the risk of complications afterwards.

This post will primarily touch upon the first and the second parts of my plan.  Here is what I did…

I drank herbal pregnancy tea or plain red raspberry leaf tea every day, almost religiously from 20 weeks on.  I got to the point during my last 6 weeks of pregnancy where I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I switched to a liquid extract of red raspberry leaf and nettle leaf.  I made my extracts, but you can find RRL extract HERE at Trilight Health.  Liquid extracts seem to be more effective than RRL capsules because the water helps to draw out the medicinal properties and nutrients more effectively than the digestive system can alone.

To make my tea I would use a 1/4 cup “nutritional herbs” (like nettle leaf, alfalfa, and oatstraw) along with a 1/4 cup packed red raspberry leaves steeped overnight in a 3-4 cups of water (which had been brought to a boil, poured over the herbs, stirred, and covered).  The most convenient way to do this was to use a quart sized coffee press – I use THIS one.  If you see my last post, there are several links to pregnancy teas.  At the moment I follow the NORA tea recipe; steeping 1/4 cup RRL, 1/4 cup Nettle leaf, 2 tbsp alfalfa leaf, and 2 tbsp oatstraw overnight mixed the following day with stevia & lemon juice.

Yummm, salad
Yummm, salad

I ate lots of green veggies and ate adequate protein.  But I already talked about that here.

My iron levels were checked multiple times during pregnancy to ensure they were adequate for a safe delivery.  Thankfully my iron levels were always great 🙂 so no additional supplementation was necessary, but if I had needed to I would have started consuming liver and possibly supplementing with THIS which I have on hand incase I need it.  *I was able to recover from my severe PP anemia after our 8th simply by consuming 1-2oz of liver each day for 2 weeks – no additional supplementation needed (even though they tried to give me 65mg of iron to take daily)

Labor Prep and my liquid RRL & Nettle Leaf extract
Labor Prep and my liquid RRL & Nettle Leaf extract

And lastly, I took an “Labor Prep” formula the last 5 weeks of pregnancy.  There are many formulas out there, as well as controversy surrounding the use of these formuls.  After doing my own research on the specific herbs involved and talking with doulas, other mamas, and midwives, I chose to go with the simplest formula out there – Labor Prep by Trilight Health, which is formulated by Shonda Parker, who is well known for her herbal knowledge and experience specifically with pregnancy.  A single 8oz bottle with get you through the last 5 weeks of pregnancy (unless of course you go significantly over your due date).  The purpose of these labor preparation formulas is to help prepare the uterus function properly.  It’s very important to take it AS DIRECTED ON THE BOTTLE as these herbs all have the potential to cause uterine contractions if you take too much!

Each herb in this formula is both stimulating and relaxing to the uterus.  They are taken in such low dosages that they cause the uterus to contract *some*, but not enough to go into labor, while at the same time each acts as an “anti-spasmodic” to the uterus, so when the uterus contracts, it does so efficiently and properly and gets better “exercise” so to speak.  The uterus *needs* to have “practice contractions” so that it is strong and ready to do it’s work on the big day.  This happens naturally on it’s own (BH – braxton hicks contractions), but after many pregnancies or poor nutrition the uterus can get “tired and disorganized” for lack of a better way to put it.  The midwives that do recommend labor prep formulas do so because they consistently help to lessen postpartum bleeding under normal circumstances.  

My personal experience: I noticed that with my 6th, 7th, & 8th pregnancies I had very few BH contractions and all of those labors were VERY SLOW to progress.  My uterus needed some help because I hadn’t been taking very good care of it.  During my 9th pregnancy, I actually didn’t really “feel” any BH contractions happening unless I happen to put my hand on my belly during a contraction.  So they happened, but I was in no discomfort (unlike past pregnancies!).  They didn’t happen any more frequently once I started taking the labor prep formula – it may be safe to say they might have even spaced out more!  This was also helpful when I went INTO labor because I knew from the discomfort and “bloody show” that it was the real deal, there was no guessing (just because I’ve had so many deliveries doesn’t mean I always know for sure when I’m in labor LOL).  And for me, it drastically reduced my postpartum bleeding compared to my past experiences, which was a HUGE relief.  TMI alert: I gave birth in a birthing pool and there wasn’t even any blood in the water despite the fact that I probably sat in that pool for 10-15 minutes after Ian was delivered.  I will say that the “afterpains” were killer compared to pas timest 😆 BUT I’d much rather have afterpains from a uterus that is contracting like it should than bleed to death!

Like all things in life there are no guarantees and God is ultimately in control of all things, but this was and is my part 🙂

My Nutrition & Supplements During Pregnancy (UPDATE 1/16/16)

There is no doubt that Mama’s nutrition during pregnancy plays a huge role in the outcome for both mom and baby.  I’d like to share what I do to work towards a health pregnancy for both baby and mama.

It starts with the foods you consume day in and day out.

I know we all have foods we crave and they make us feel better, but during pregnancy you need to choose to eat well even if you continue to indulge in those less than ideal cravings and treats.  I know that I can not eat a “perfect” diet so I have a few goals for each day when it comes to what I eat.  In addition to following a whole foods diet I…

Some wild edibles I added to my salad the other day
Some wild edibles I added to my salad the other day – chickweed and lambs quarter.

FIRST: Eat 1 large salad of baby green lettuces eaten with at least 1-2 tsp of olive oil drizzled on top.

Greens are packed full of micronutrients that your body needs at all times, but especially during pregnancy!  I usually choose to eat a “spring mix” of lettuce so that I am getting a variety of different lettuces, but these last few weeks I’ve enjoyed having baby arugula salads.  Adding olive oil to your salad aids in the absorption of various fat soluble nutrients and baby’s brain loves those mono-unsaturated fats!  Fiber from your lettuces will also help keep your bowels regular and in working order.  *TIP* If you’re having trouble digesting your lettuces (salad runs anyone?) add 2-3 droppers full of a ginger glycerite just before eating your salad.  I make mine, but you can purchase one HERE. If it’s “too spicy” to take it straight, add it to a little bit of water and you won’t even taste it :).

I've got a serious peanut butter addition...
I’ve got a serious peanut butter addition…

SECOND: Adequate protein (70 grams minimum)

Not getting enough protein and getting too much protein both adversely affect pregnancy outcomes.  According to research, staying between 70-100g of protein on a daily basis seems to be the “sweet spot”.  Babies of mothers who consumed both under, or over, this amount were more prone to have “low birth weight” babies.  Now if you typically have very large babies, shooting for close to 100g of protein a day might not be a terrible idea ;-), but you’ll want to be sure to support your kidneys through herbal supplements as a heavier protein loads is harder on them, especially during pregnancy.  *TIP* To support my kidneys during pregnancy I take 1-2 capsules dandelion leaf capsules with each meal.). Dandelion leaf has the added benefit of being a digestive aid, is packed full of many nutrients, and can help with pregnancy swelling due to it’s mild diuretic action (it’s also a good source of potassium!).

UPDATE: 1/16 – I switched to taking 1 Collinsonia root capsule daily as it supports the kidneys AND is helping with my pelvic varicose veins.

Broth in a mug, yummmm :)
Broth in a mug, yum 🙂

THIRD: Vegetable and Bone Broth

Both vegetable and bone broth are an easily assimilated source of vitamins & minerals.  You can drink it by itself, in soups, make a sauce with it, cook your rice in it, etc etc.  It’s also a very frugal way to make every bit of healthy food you have stretch to meet your nutritional needs.  There are about a thousand articles on the web about the benefits of broth so I won’t expound upon it here. 😉 Just use our friend google.


FOURTH: Herbal Pregnancy tea

I try to drink 2-4 cups of herbal pregnancy tea daily.  Red raspberry leaf tea is specifically traditionally used among herbalist to help prepare the uterus to work efficiently for labor & delivery of the baby.  It is a rich source of minerals in addition to it’s medicinal action of strengthening the actions of the uterus.  *IMPORTANT TO NOTE* Red Raspberry Leaf does NOT CAUSE uterine contractions.  It simply strengthens whatever action the uterus is already preforming.  If the uterus is contracting already, it will strengthen that action, but if the uterus is at rest, it will not cause it to contract.  You can find pre-made teas HERE, HERE, HERE, or you can make your own by following this recipe for “NORA tea“.




FIFTH: Appropriate Nutritional Supplements

This will vary from person to person because our needs are unique, but here is what I take and why:

  • Cod liver oil, 2 capsules daily (A good source of EPA & DHA – also contains vitamin A & D) – I’ve used THIS brand for years.
  • Evening Primrose Oil, 1 capsule daily (a good source of Alpha-Linolenic Acid and Gamma-Linolenic Acid) THIS brand.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** – I have gone down to taking just one 500mg capsule daily.
  • Calcium/Magnesium in a 1:1 ratio, 2 capsules 2x a day (I have a primarily dairy free diet and my pregnancies are fairly close together – I take this on my midwife’s recommendation.  I have tried a 2:1 ratio and it gives me muscle twitches ;-).  I also try to take an espom salt bath once a week.) I use THIS brand.
    ***Update 12/11*** In the last week I have been consuming my pregnancy tea faithfully every single day (as outlined in this post) and only just the last few days my muscles have been trying to have leg cramps first thing in the morning.  This is not uncommon in mineral imbalance.  I suspect I may be able to reduce or stop my calcium / magnesium supplement with daily consumption of my tea.  I will keep this updated as I make changes.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I have finally found the sweet spot.  Just 1 capsule daily when I drink my pregnancy infusion (1/4 cup nettle, 1/4 cup red raspberry leaf, 1/4 cup oatstraw steeped over night).
  • Astragalus Root, 2 capsules 2x a day for immune support.  I make my own capsules, but you can buy them HERE.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** no longer taking astragalus every day, just as needed for immune support when the kids are sick 😉
  • Dandelion Leaf, 2 capsules 2x a day (reasons listed above). I make my own as they’re hard to find at a reasonable price already made.  You’ll just have to do a good google search on this one.  You can also take dandelion leaf liquid extract or tea, both of which are more readily available.  A possible substitution might be nettle leaf, but dandelion really shines in kidney support and is very safe and nutritious for pregnancy.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** As noted above, I’m taking Collinsonia Root now.
  • Butcher’s Broom Root, 2 capsules 2x a day for varicose vein support, swelling in the legs, and general feelings of “heaviness”  in the legs.  It works particularly well for that “heavy” feeling in the legs.  I’m currently researching additional support for my varicose veins.  I make the capsules, but you can buy THIS brand.
  • Buffered C Complex, 2 capsules 2x a day for varicose vein support and enhanced iron absorption.  I am usually not a fan of vitamin C supplements, but the one I take is as close to “good” as I can get without paying an arm and a leg ;-).  It contains some whole foods (acerola cherry and rosehips) in addition to hesperidin and rutin which both have been studied for their role in vein health.  THIS is the one I take.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I’m now just taking 1 capsule 2x a day.
  • 400mg Methyl-Folate, one a day.  I get folate in my diet, this is just “insurance”.  It’s important to take a methylated form if you are going to take a supplement.  I have been taking THIS one.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I have been analyzing my diet with Cronometer and I’m getting plenty of folate in my diet so I have discontinued this supplement.
  • Vitamin K2 Complex, 1 a day for proper calcium utilization & blood clotting factors.  It contains both vitamin K1 & K2.  Read a good summary on K1 & K2.  I buy THIS one because I just can’t see myself consuming fermented nato just yet 😉 and since dairy, being one source of K2, is not an option.
  • Green Food Powder Supplement, 3 or more times a week for general health and placenta health.  It has been observed within some midwifery practices that women who supplemented with a green food supplement have healthier placentas than those who do not consume these “green food” powders.  They contain an array of nutrients we usually are lacking in our diets and are a convenient way to get some more greens in my diet.   There are a variety of them on the market, but I currently use and trust THIS one.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I’m trying to consume this just about every day in my smoothie now
  • ***UPDATE 12/11/15*** I added in a cup of “root” tea in the evening – 1tsp each of dandelion root, burdock root, and stone root tea – simmered in 1.5 cups of water for 15 minutes.  These are to support liver health (dandelion & burdock), and healthy circulation (stone root)
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** Now I am just taking 3 dandelion root capsules a day for convenience stake
  • ***UPDATE 12/11/15*** I have varicose veins and to prevent blood clots and encourage good circulation I have also started taking one 60mg standardized gingko biloba capsule daily and added 1 tbsp of cleavers leaf to my daily tea mix.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I stopped the ginkgo and have continued the cleavers.
  • ***UPDATE 1/16*** I added a b-complex vitamin.  Using Cronometer has allowed me to see where I’m lacking on a day to day basis and sometimes I don’t get certain b-vites.  I take THIS brand.  It’s pricey, but not synthetic like most b-complex vitamins out there.  Synthetic b-vitamins can cause lots of problems, here is an example.

Being pregnant many times or with several pregnancies close together doesn’t mean you are doomed to poor health.  I believe there are key things you can do to take care of mama that go a long way in contributing to your long term health and also to the health of the baby you are carrying.  If you’re trying to figure out what you might need to supplement your diet with or where to begin, please feel free to contact me.  I’d love to help you get it figured out!

Are Name Brands Supplements Worth the “extra” cost?

The “name brand” SJW is on the top. The store brand (in this case, from Walmart) is on the bottom.

In the case of herbal supplements, they sure are!

Several months ago I purchased a store brand “St. John’s Wort” supplement. I took 1 capsule and proceeded to get a head ache. I tested it again on 3 separate occasions, and each time I got a head ache after taking it, so I just assumed I was one of the few people who get “side effects” from taking St. John’s Wort. Then I read this article recently, and it told me what I already “knew” in my head, but was in denial about to be honest.

So I decided to buy a good name brand supplement and give St. John’s Wort a try again (I need some emotional support postpartum and I’m trying to avoid going back on Zoloft). On the recommendation of a midwife, I took 2 yesterday morning – no headache. I took 2 at lunch – no headache. I took 2 with dinner – no headache.

I decided I needed to look closer at these supplements. Upon examining the store brand capsule next to the name brand capsule, they were not even the same color!  I opened both capsules and poured them on to a plate. The store brand smelled vaugely of SJW (short for St.John’sWort), but also had a strong “burnt” smell. The name brand smelled fresh and like the dried whole herb of SJW that I have in my pantry. The store brand felt like ashes when I touched it. The name brand felt like other reliable sources of powdered herbs I’ve dealt with.

Moral of the story – if you’re going to give the natural remedy of herbs a try, don’t skimp. Go for the trusted names. In the case of herbal capsules, I prefer the “Nature’s Way” brand, which is the name brand I went with.

How We Fight the Flu



I just wanted to share what we do when we have illness in the house and the various remedies that have been very helpful in keeping illness at bay, treating symptoms, and hastening the healing process.

****As with any medication or natural product with medicinal action – please take the time to educate yourself on any herbal remedy you might take or give to your children.****

The first step is prevention during times of increased exposure to illness – we try to stay on top of taking elderberry syrup religiously through the cold and flu season.  I have a recipe you can find here with details on how we use it.  Also avoid excessive amounts of treats (which is hard with the holiday season happening, I know!) and processed foods will go a long way in keeping your immune system in tip top shape.

When anyone in the house starts to feel a tickle in the throat, a funny feeling in the nose, starts to cough a little bit, I give them a weight appropriate dose of astragalus root, echinacea root, licorice root, and additional elderberry or elderflower, all in the form of tinctures or glycerine extracts, 2x a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.  I make most of our herbal remedies at the moment (which saves our family hundreds of dollars over the course of the year), but high quality extracts are available.  For children – “Herbs for Kids” is an excellent brand available from many online retailers including Amazon and Vitacost.  For adults, I have been pleased with the product I tried from TriLight Health, but any brand of herbal extract will do – most come with clear dosing instructions and or possible contraindications.  Licorice root is the only one that may need to be omitted or reduced depending on the pre-existing health conditions of the person taking it.

If viral illness has taken hold already or if it seems severe, I increase the frequency of how often they receive the same herbal dosage as above to 3-4x a day.  We’ve seen first hand how it has gone for one child who did not receive adequate herbal support right from the get go vs one who did with a severe viral illness (hand foot and mouth disease) and the difference was striking.

Natural Symptom Treatment Options:

For Swollen Lymph Nodes & Sore Muscles: We use a blend of lavender, frankincense, copaiba essential oils diluted with olive oil and gently rubbed into the lymph nodes and for sore muscles we dilute it further and the sick person gets a little massage with it :).  Any of these would work on their own, but I like them as a trio.

For congestion (head or chest congestion): fennel seed and/or anise seed extract (or a syrup made just like the elderberry recipe using a mix of half fennel and anise seed instead) has been very effective at thinning and breaking up congestion, preventing mucus build up and decreasing the likeliness of infection.  This also prevents that dreaded “thick cough” that children can get that can cause them to gag and throw up in the middle of the night.

For that dry tickle in the throat: Humidity is always and ally, as well as “cooling” essential oil vapors (such as peppermint, eucalyptus, & tea tree), but there are hundreds of blog posts on those and I actually reach for a different remedy more often than those.  We have a tea we make called “Peter’s Cold Tea” because I first made it combat the cough that my Peter usually gets.  Mix equal parts marshmallow root, peppermint leaf, and lemon balm leaf and make into a tea.  Sweetening with honey adds to it’s cooling / soothing properties.  Using a glycerine based peppermint extract is also effective – the peppermint cools and glycerine is a humectant, drawing moisture to itself helping to create a soothing barrier on the throat.

For a deep seated thick cough: Along with the above treatments, licorice root is a potent remedy that reduces inflammation in respiratory tissue and helps to thin mucus.

For Fevers: A blend of yarrow and peppermint tea, or extract is a time honored way to bring down a fever and has worked well for us.  Also, for older children and adults, peppermint oil applied directly to the skin can also aid in bringing down a fever (I prefer to dilute our oils in half with olive oil in a roller top bottle (purchased in bulk from amazon) when using them in this way.

For Sore Throats: Nothing makes a sore throat feel better than a cup of cinnamon and clove tea 🙂 The tea mentioned above works well too (Peter’s cold tea).

Basic Elderberry Syrup Recipe w/ Variations



  • 1/2 cup dried elderberries
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 – 1 cup honey
  • addition water or ice to reconstitute  water after boiling



  • bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add elderberries (and any other additional ingredients that I will discuss in the variations section below)
  • cover and simmer for 30-60 min
  • strain into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer & press down on the herbs with a spoon to squeeze out all the medicinal goodness
  • re-constitute your strained liquid with water (or ice to cool it if using raw honey) until it measures 3 cups again
  • add honey and stir or shake until well combined
  • store in the fridge in a jar

How long will it stay good?

  • Approximately 1 month in the fridge.  If you don’t think you will use it up that quickly you can cut the recipe in half *or* freeze half of it right away for use later

How we use it:

  • Preventatively we try to either eat a little bit every day during the months of Sept – March (I love to add it to oatmeal, in smoothies, over pancakes, etc).  If we haven’t eaten some, I will give all the children about 1Tbsp in the evening after dinner and for those who are adults (or of adult size), I will give 1.5-2 Tbsps
  • During cold or other viral illness I will repeat the above dose up to 4 times during a day

Variations: (these are in addition to the above recipe ingredients except where noted)

  • 1tbsp sweet cinnamon chips, 1 tsp cloves – these add a nice flavor and contain their own medicinal properties
  • 1/4 cup astragalus root either in addition to *or* sub for half of the elderberries in the recipe
  • 2-4 Tbsps rose hips
  • The recipe I make most frequently includes 1/4 cup elderberries, 1/4 cup astragalus, 2 Tbsps rosehips, 1Tbsp sweet cinnamon chips, 1 Tbsp orange peel, and 1 tsp whole cloves



Remember when ordering herbs, please consider shopping through our affiliate link on the sidebar of this blog or the one you’ll find at the bottom of this post 🙂 we appreciate the support very much!

A passion for organics